SINGAPORE — Time may fly by and stress may surge when we feel too busy, but having a jam-packed day may actually be good for the body. A study by researchers from the international business school INSEAD finds that busier people make healthier choices in their everyday lives.
The study suggests that being busy helps individuals delay gratification and make smarter decisions. In fact, researchers say that simply thinking of oneself as busy promotes healthier behavior.
“Every day, we make many decisions that involve choosing between our immediate and future well-being,” says lead author Amitava Chattopadhyay, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD, in a media release. For instance, do we go to the gym after work, or do we just go home to relax in front of the television? Do we save money for retirement, or do we splurge on a trip? Do we eat fruit or cake for dessert? When we perceive ourselves to be busy, it boosts our self-esteem, tipping the balance in favor of the more virtuous choice.”
Having a busy mindset, the study shows, can be a badge of honor, which can lead to better self-control. While people who are under time restrictions can get anxious and make poor health decisions, people who are more aware of themselves as busy tend to make healthier, more virtuous decisions because of their heightened sense of self-importance.
The researchers sought to activate the busy mindset of participants in a series of studies. In one study, they exposed participants to messaging that subtly suggested they were busy individuals. In other experiments, the researchers asked the participants to write down what had been keeping them busy recently.
Participants were then asked to make decisions in a variety of self-control scenarios related to food, exercise, retirement savings, and others promoting long-term health and well-being. Those who were reminded of their busy lifestyle consistently made more virtuous decisions than control participants, the authors found.
Interestingly, the study also shows that a greater feeling of self-importance may be the central factor when it comes to greater willpower in decision making. “When we temporarily dampened the sense of self-importance of participants who otherwise felt busy, the self-control effect vanished,” notes Chattopadhyay.
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.